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COCOBOD trial: ‘Ah, why is Dr Opuni not the first witness?’ – ‘Shocked’ Justice Honyenuga asks

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COCOBOD trial: ‘Ah, why is Dr Opuni not the first witness?’ – ‘Shocked’ Justice Honyenuga asks 56

Justice Honyenuga was shocked that Dr Opuni did not mount the witness box

This was when Dr Opuni has opened his defence

Dr Opuni’s lawyer said it is his clients prerogative

Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga, the judge presiding over the case involving former COCOBOD CEO, Dr Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo, could not comprehend why Dr Opuni did not mount the witness box to open his defence in the ongoing trial.

In an angelonline report sighted by GhanaWeb, the trial judge sounded livid when he realized that, the former Director of Finance at COCOBOD was to be the first witness, therefore, he questioned the lawyers of Dr Opuni the motive behind the decision.

“Ah, why is the first accused [Dr. Opuni] not being the first,” Justice Honyenuga asked.

Lawyer for Dr Opuni, Samuel Cudjoe responded indicating that, it is his client’s sole prerogative to determine who becomes the first witness and how each witness is called to testify before the court.

“My Lord, no law stops us from starting our defence with this witness. There is no requirement that directs how we call our witnesses in defence. In fact, it is even possible the first accused may not testify. In fact, Article 19 (2g) states it clear.

“My Lord, the Prosecution was not restrained or asked or directed as to how its witnesses were called to testify and we believe we have equal rights to call which witness we want,” Lawyer Cudjoe stated.

Justice Honyenuga, who is sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court judge, subsequently allowed the witness, former Director of Finance at COCOBOD, Charles Tetteh Dodoo to testify.

“By court, indeed this court cannot compel the first accused person to give evidence and this is supported by Article 19 clause 10.

“In the circumstances, it is the right of first accused to choose the mode he intends to open his defence, consequently, the witness can testify,” he said.

An early application filed by Samuel Codjoe on the 24th of November, 2021 invoking the original jurisdiction of his client was shot down by Justice Honyenuga.

The relief, among others, is seeking a perpetual injunction restraining the court from continuing with the hearing of the case until the determination by the Supreme Court.

“I don’t want you to go into the matter. What you have said is enough. I don’t want to listen to any authority,” the judge said.

Lawyer for the second and third accused, Nutifafa Nutsukpui sided with Lawyer Codjoe and prayed the court, as a practice, to adjourn the hearing until the determination of the application.

But Stella Ohene Appiah, the Principal State Attorney opposed the application, noting that the mere fact that a writ has been filed doesn’t mean that the court should suspend the hearing.

“It is my respected opinion that although the first accused has filed a writ invoking the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the writ which came to my attention only this morning, there is no order of stay of proceedings by the Supreme Court ordering this court from the continuation of this case. I remember that on July 1, 2021, l ruled and adjourned an application to invoke the original supervisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court because of the circumstance at that time. This case has travelled the length and breadth of the Supreme Court and with the Supreme Court has not ordered this court to stay proceeding,” Justice Honyenuga said while he rejected the application.

Background

The former COCOBOD Chief Executive and businessman Seidu Agongo are standing trial together with Agricult Ghana Limited for allegedly causing the state to lose over GH¢217 million in cocoa fertilizer transactions. They have pleaded not guilty to all charges brought against them.

The court sat for the first time on Thursday, November 2, 2021, following the reinstatement of Justice Clemence Honyenuga of the Supreme Court, as the trial judge, by a review panel of the Supreme Court.

Following the submission of Dr. Opuni’s counsel concerning the defence witness, the prosecution led by Principal State Attorney Stella Ohene Appiah did not object.

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